We still have two years and eight months of this Coalition left. The “essential mission” of this government is not yet complete. The “passion” which David Cameron committed to the Big Society has not yet been fulfilled. And the commitment which Nick Clegg made to whatever he holds dearest apart from constitutional reform isn’t finished either.
I asked just over a year ago whether the government had committed to too little. Not because the tasks which it set itself were small – they weren’t and aren’t. But because they, as we have seen, have only taken us to this stage of the Parliament. Several commentators (Nick yesterday, and previously, Peter Oborne, and Adam Afriyie are only a few) recommend a new Coalition Agreement.
We do not need yet more legislation. I would argue in fact that we need to see a renewed focus on the spirit of that Agreement. On the embedding of opening up services, data and information.On the repeal of laws that stymie innovation, choice and control. On the support for those who need it, the reward for those who do the right thing, and the committed nudging, shifting and poking to those who don’t do the right thing or don’t need our help.
This does however require a certain amount of stepping back from the everyday, to examine what is really important, and to enable that focus on what to do, how to do it, and how to explain it. It also requires much more strategic thought than I think most people see at the moment from the Conservatives.
While I wouldn’t necessarily agree that they have abandoned strategic thinking (like Tim Montgomerie, for example, I think the renewed focus on Labour’s economic faults is essential and must be sustained with rational argument), I do think that they need to expand the way they think, and ensure that the three pillars of their 2015 election manifesto are being built: economic growth and competence, public services that serve the public, and a society that feels better than before. As I say often, competent, caring, in control and communicating is a lot to ask. But it’s what is needed.